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UK Politics

BNP's ballerina is engaged to party's mayoral candidate

Simone Clarke, the ballerina who created shockwaves when it was revealed that she had joined the far-right British National Party, is engaged to one of the party's leading activists. Her husband-to-be is Richard Barnbrook, a councillor from Barking, east London, who is to be the BNP candidate in next year's election for the mayor of London.

"We've been going out for over nine months I'm surprised the media haven't found out before," he said in an interview yesterday.

Mr Barnbrook hit the headlines last year when it emerged he had directed an erotic film called HMS Discovery: a Love Story, in which men are seen undressing and frolicking in a river.

Clarke's former partner was her co-dancer Yat-Sen Chang, a Cuban immigrant whose father was Chinese. The relationship broke up after her BNP membership came to light.

The 37-year-old daughter of a maths teacher from Leeds is one of the few "homegrown" stars of British ballet, and one of the English National Ballet's most-experienced performers. She has danced in prestigious roles such as The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

There were calls for her to be sacked after her BNP membership was exposed by a Guardian journalist who went undercover in the party. But the English National Ballet says it is not part of its remit to intervene on a political matter. When she danced the lead in Giselle on 12 January her first public performance since her BNP membership had been revealed 40 people protested outside the London Coliseum theatre.

Mr Barnbrook who was not then her fianc led a counter-demonstration and said: "I don't normally go to the ballet but I'm going to support Simone Clarke. I'm supporting her freedom of expression."

Clarke has rarely spoken in public about her politics, but in an interview with the Mail on Sunday a year ago she said that she had joined the BNP in 2005, because of its opposition to mass immigration.

"I didn't really know anything about the BNP but they had come up in conversation a few times because they had just won some local council seats," she said.

"We went on to the computer and we looked them up and I read their manifesto. I'm not too proud to say that a lot of it went over my head but some of the things they mentioned were the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes. Those three issues were enough to make me join so I paid my 25 there and then.

"I think the BNP are honest. They're not trying to dress up what they want, which is a change on these issues."

The first item in the BNP manifesto is a pledge to reduce the non-white population of the UK through deportation and "voluntary resettlement".

When news broke that Clarke had joined the party, Mr Barnbrook highlighted her relationship with Chang as proof that she was not racist, although he added: "I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but their children are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people." In fact, Clarke and Chang have a daughter.

Mr Barnbrook is cited in BNP propaganda as proof that not all its members conform to the stereotype of skinheads with tattooed knuckles. The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight has described him as "a former Labour Party member from south London, an arts graduate with a middle-class accent though only one suit and a very high opinion of himself".

As a student he helped direct HMS Discovery: a Love Story. Mr Barnbrook has said: "It was an art film end of story. It was not a bloody porn film."